Messaging platforms: the frontier of real-time #sportsmarketing

KPCB’s Internet Trends 2015, an essential publication in my opinion for all sports digital / marketing professionals, has just been released. The big take-out for me is the rise and ubiquity of messaging platforms. The list of top global apps by usage features no less than six messaging platforms (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, LINE (from Japan), Viber (now Japanese-owned), Kakao Talk (from Korea) and WeChat (from China)).

messaging apps top 10_001

More platforms, more uncertainty

The rise of messaging platforms is already further exacerbating the dilemma faced by most sports marketers in terms of deciding which social media platforms to focus on. Snapchat (with an estimated 100 million daily active users globally) has been popular already for a few years amongst US sports franchises and WeChat has been leveraged by many global sports brands as a gateway to Asian sports fans.

Messaging platforms are evolving and incorporating media channels (e.g. Snapchats “Discover” platform which is fed both by an in-house editorial team and external media companies including CNN), payment / commerce functionalities, QR code compatibility, games and just-in-time services such as taxi ordering and food delivery. As highlighted by the KPCB report, messaging apps from Asia are leading the way in this regard.

messaging platforms Asia

Opportunities and threats

Sports teams, events and athletes looking to engage their fans (and offer value to sponsors) should be examining closely the possibilities to leverage messaging platforms to offer brand experiences in what is considered a very personal channel and ultimately open up new or amplify existing revenue streams. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid (both trying to occupy the position of innovators in new technology) opened accounts in 2013 with LINE as part of broader marketing agreements. Last year, FC Barcelona followed the NBA and the Premier League, as well as Lionel Messi and LeBron James onto WeChat to compliment its Chinese and Asian digital presence.

Snapchat, through its “Our Story” feature, reportedly want to focus increasingly on curating (and commercialising) user generated content around live sports events (Twitter are also trying to leverage live sports events in a similar manner as part of their “Project Lightning” (nb. launched as Twitter Moments since I penned this article)). There is an obvious opportunity for live sports event rights holders to take advantage of this trend to get valuable coverage. However this should also be of some concern to these rights holders who should want to avoid non-sponsors associating with their image/ property via unofficial curated content. One to watch.

As sports organisations build followings on messaging platforms and deepen their relationship with communities of fans, these platforms will inevitably become increasingly important as customer service channels. The emerging communities will of course require investment to manage them as their social media predecessors have.

So, watch out sports business world, the age of the messaging platform is coming here!

(Click on this link to download Internet Trends 2015 by KPCB:


About the author of this post:

David is a Chartered Marketer with more than 15 years’ experience in international sports marketing roles. You can follow David on twitter @davidgfowler or connect on LinkedIn at



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